Are you a gym buff or workoutaholic? I have always loved sports and so exercise comes naturally to me. However, since moving to Korea, I had to say goodbye to most of the team sports I enjoyed back home. But I still enjoy exercising whenever I can and one of my favourite activites is definitely hiking. If you’re up for experiencing hiking at its peak, I recommend that you sign up for the High Trail 9 Peaks Festival, held in the Yeongnam Alps.
Hiking in Korea
Korea is reknowned for its huge metropolis cities like Seoul and Busan, but the country also boasts many natural landscapes and beautiful mountain ranges. In fact, even living in the centre of Seoul gives you access to mountains like Bukhansan and Inwangsan. Therefore, you’re never too far from a climb.
Korea also hosts many festivals, both by region and by interest. This year, I was lucky enough to participate in one of the most popular festivals for Korean outdoor enthusiasts, the High Trail 9 Peaks Festival in Ulsan, specifically, in the Yeongnam Alps.
Ulsan City and Yeongnam Alps
Ulsan Metropolitan City lies on the South-Eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, a short journey from Busan. Ulsan is widely known as an industrial powerhouse in Korea. To that end, it’s home to the largest automobile assembly lane in the world, owned by Korean vehicle manufacturer, Hyundai. However, Ulsan is not all car parts and tech and the Yeongnam Alps is one of Korea’s greatest natural gems.
The Yeongnam Alps is a huge range of mountains not too far from Ulsan city. The mountains are a favorited destination amongst nature enthusiasts, as well as Ulsan citizens looking for an escape. Furthermore, the Alps are part of the Taebaek Mountain range. Although smaller than the European Alps from where they get their name, they too have several peaks, each with stunning views
The mountain foilage is especially stunning during the fall season, which is why the Yeongnam Alps hosts the High Trail 9 Peaks Festival in October each year. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was allowed to continue. Of course, I grabbed hold of the opportunity to soak in that gorgeous autumn beauty with a good hike.
High Trail 9 Peaks Festival
So what exactly is the High Trail 9 Peaks Festival? Well, the festival was named after a specific hiking route that was mapped out to connect all 9 peaks of the Yeongnam Alps: Ganwolsan, Goboksan, Gajisan, Unmunsan, Cheonhwangsan, Jaeyaksan, Yeongchuksan and Sinbulsan. As you can imagine, it is no ordinary hiking trail. What’s more, the High Trail was dubbed the most difficult hiking track in Korea! Therefore, only advanced hikers attempt to complete the entire trail over the 3 day festival duration.
However, the festival is open for all, hiking masters and novices alike. As such, you can take a shorter hike, even just 1-2 of the 9 trails, and still receive a certificate and some goodies.
During autumn, the 9 Peaks course is famous for its panoramic views and silver grass fields, though it is beautiful all-year-round! Over 2.5 million people visit the Yeongnam Alps every year, and the 2020 High Trail 9 Peaks Festival saw 20,000 hikers take the challenge and receive their gifts at the end.
For more information on certificates and prizes, check out the High Trail 9 Peaks official website >> here <<
The Festival 2021: My Experience
I participated in this year’s festival, which took place from 29th – 31st of October. Did I manage to climb every mountain? Of course not. But I did make it to the top of one peak, which is an achievement by anyone’s standards!
Trekking Mt. Ganwolsan
I decided to climb Mt. Ganwolsan, the easiest yet most popular of the 9 peaks. I set out in the early morning in preparation. Hiking up Mt. Ganwol took us a little over 2 hours in total and there is a nice rest area near the top. Additionally, the track was wide and the terrain was pretty smooth! So even if you’re not an avid hiker, you can enjoy the trek and reach the top! Furthermore, there’s no better feeling than being surrounded by natural scenery and breathing in that fresh mountain air.
The rest stop has coffee, ramen etc. for sale, which most hikers enjoy before heading up to the peak or onto the next trail. Vegans can enjoy black coffee and the traditional Korean snack 양걍 (‘yang-gaeng‘), red bean jelly. Mt. Ganwolsan specifically boasts a view that looks down over Ulsan city, as well as its silver grass fields. Moreover, you can even bring your dog along!
Festival Events and Celebrations
Overall, I had a wonderful experience at the festival. The Yeongnam Alps are stunning and the festival included several events prepared for the attendees. For example, we took part in a yoga and meditation experience at the peak of the mountain!…Although the strong wind might hinder you from finding your inner zen.
The High Trail 9 Peaks Festival in the Yeongnam Alps is one of the best hiking trips I’ve ever done! And not just in Korea. Taking part in the festival made the whole hike feel even more special and I can’t wait for what the organizers prepare next year! Will you join me?
Location & Directions
Yeongnam Alps Complex Welcome Center Address: 515-2 Deungeokalpeuseu-ri, Sangbuk-myeon, Ulju-gun, Ulsan Operating Hours: 9:00am - 9:00pm Tues - Sun, - 8:00pm (Dec ~ Feb) Directions: During the festival, there is a shuttle bus available from Ulsan Station. At other times, take bus no. 304 or 323 to Complex Welcome Center stop (approx. 40 min.)
Thank you for reading my article! If you’re new here, my name is Sara and I like to write about vegan food, K-beauty and my travels around Korea. For more articles related to travel and tourism in Korea, subscribe to KoreabyMe.com. See you next time!